Post link 31 July 2014, 1:05
A functioning man-made leaf that absorbs water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen, just like natural leaves, has been created by an art graduate. new material could provide a steady source of oxygen for humans on long missions in space and even help us colonise new planets.
Julian Melchiorri claims that the leaves could also transform life on Earth as we know it, because buildings could be clad with the material to oxygenate homes and polluted urban areas.

The Royal College of Art graduate told Dezeen that Nasa is researching ways to ensure a supply of oxygen over long journeys so that people can live in space, but that plants don’t grow in zero gravity.

‘This material could allow us to explore space much further than we can now,’ he said.
Mr Melchiorri, who lives in London, was working on his leaf while on the RCA’s Innovation Design Engineering Course and collaborated with scientists at Tufts University silk lab in Massachusetts to engineer the material.
It is made up of chloroplasts from plant cells that are suspended in a web of silk protein. The protein is extracted from natural silk fibres.
‘This material has amazing properties of stabilising molecules,’ he explained in a video. Melchiorri claims that he has made the 'first photosynthetic material that is living and breathing as a leaf does.'
But just like real leaves, the new material needs a small amount of fresh water and light to produce oxygen, which still needs to be discovered on planets for humans to call home.
Mr Melchiorri says that his material consumes very little energy and as a result he thinks it could be incorporated into modern buildings, to absorb carbon dioxide.
It could be used to clad facades, ventilation systems, he said. ‘You can absorb air from outside, pass it through these biological filters and then bring oxygenated air inside.’
He has so far created lampshades made from the material, which produce oxygen while helping to light up a home.
The project was showcased as part of Dezeen and Mini Frontiers.

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